Labour calls on chancellor to fund retrofitting of sprinklers in high rise tower blocks

Labour has called on the chancellor to set aside £1bn in the Budget to fund the retrofitting of sprinklers in all council and housing association tower blocks, starting with blocks that are 30m (ten storeys) or higher. 

Speaking today, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said that despite independent research showing that sprinklers extinguish or contain fires in 99% of cases, only 2% of tower blocks have sprinkler systems. Labour said that the government had so far refused to provide funding for councils to retrofit sprinklers following the Grenfell Tower fire. Two coroners’ reports in 2013 into the high-rise fires at Lakanal House and Shirley Towers recommended that sprinklers be fitted into social housing blocks.

Many councils and housing associations lack the funds to retrofit sprinklers, following cuts to local government funding of 40% since 2010. Labour claims that a number of local authorities have said their requests for funding from the government to retrofit sprinklers have been turned down or ignored, including Nottingham City Council, Salford Council and Conservative-controlled Westminster Council. 

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn said: “Five months on from the Grenfell Tower fire, still only 2% of tower blocks have sprinklers and councils claim they have been denied funding for these vital measures. The government is failing to learn the lessons from this tragedy. I urge the chancellor to use the Budget to urgently provide the funds needed to retrofit sprinklers, ensuring people in thousands of tower blocks across our country are living in safety and with peace of mind. The Grenfell Tower fire was an entirely avoidable human disaster that must not be repeated.”

John Healey, Labour’s shadow housing secretary, said: “Grenfell was a national disaster which demands a national government response. Five months on, residents in high rise blocks need to know their homes are safe, yet ministers won’t act. The Conservatives have slashed local government funding by 40% since 2010, depriving councils of the funds that they need to make life saving changes. Sprinklers save lives, which is why the government should set aside the money to fit them into tower blocks across the country.”

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